Vacations can add up quickly, especially when you bring the kids. That’s why you need to know my top 25 ways to save money for vacations through these cheap travel tips when you’re traveling on a budget. Keep scrolling for all the info!
This cheap travel tips post was written by family travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.
Most people’s reasoning for why traveling to great destinations is out of the question is due to finances.
Money for food, lodging, fuel, car rentals, and airline tickets for a trip can cost a lot more money than you’re willing to part with.
However, if you’re money savvy, you can cut traveling expenses down to almost half. That can be the reason you’re able to take the trip now rather than waiting.
I’m all about encouraging families to get out and explore the world and I know that money is usually the biggest barrier.
I don’t claim to be a budget traveler, but I’m all about avoiding unnecessary costs and figuring out where to splurge and where to save.
Even if you just try a few of these cheap travel tips, you can save TONS of money on your next family vacation.
Here are 25 cheap travel tips that everyone should know about when traveling on a budget.
25 Ways for Traveling on Budget:
1. Be Flexible
Being flexible will open you to more options on where and when you can visit.
Being able to jump on a last-minute flight to different locations, not only opens up possibilities with more options, but could also save you hundreds on airfare.
Personally, I’ve signed up for Scott’s Cheap Flights and Just Get Out of Town to get daily emails about travel deals.
2. Plan Ahead
Learning everything you need to know about where you are visiting will save you money too.
Finding out about parking, free activities, and cheap places to eat are some of the ways you can find loopholes around unnecessary expensive traveling.
Find out how to save money at Disneyland with a little bit of planning.
3. Travel Off-Season
Planning to travel during the off-season is another great way to save you hundreds when prices are at their lowest.
If the weather isn’t going to throw you off, consider traveling in the winter months when children are back to school. There are lots of great ideas for winter family vacations here in the U.S.!
Destinations like Florida or California still have mild temperatures during the winter, perfect for your shorts and t-shirts. You will save more on air flight tickets, hotel stays, and even entertainment.
Take a look at your school calendar as soon as you get it and see if there are any in-service days or breaks when other schools will be in session.
We also leave a few days early for mid-winter break and spring break to save a bit of money.
If you head to San Diego in October, kids get free admission to TONS of places like LEGOLAND!
4. Choose Your Airline Carefully
Any airline will get you where you need, with one costing far too much and the other at a more reasonable price.
Don’t just settle for the first airline that has a reasonable price on plane tickets. Do a little shopping around to save even more.
And sometimes the cheapest flight isn’t the best deal for your family. We’ve paid a little extra to fly airlines where we already have accrued a lot of miles in order to qualify for free flights quicker.
5. Book Your Flight, Car Rental, and Hotel Together
Another great way to save even more money is by booking your plane tickets, car rental, and hotel stay in a package.
Packages will usually save you far more than securing them separately.
Right now, Costco Travel has been having amazing travel packages to Hawaii.
6. Book Early/Book Late
So which is it, book early or book late? Travelers have discovered that it works both ways.
Studies have shown the best time to buy your plane tickets early is around 6 weeks before your flight. Typically waiting for the date to get closer will cause the prices to go up.
Booking late can save you hundreds too.
Airlines are looking to get those seats filled up at the last minute, allowing you to purchase seats for a fraction of the price.
The only problem is, if you have a vacation planned, you run the risk of not getting on that flight altogether.
7. Travel Mid-Week
Flying on a Tuesday or midweek will save you far more than traveling on the weekends. This is when it can really pay off if you are able to extend school breaks by a few days.
8. Avoid Car Rentals in the City
Car rentals are not economical in the city.
If you’re there for a week, you can be paying more than $100-$200 just for parking at your hotel. And then there are parking fees at the attractions and popular sites.
Instead, bring along a travel booster seat and use ride shares to save time and money.
However, if you are traveling with a rental to a destination where you aren’t paying for parking, a car rental isn’t too bad a deal.
9. Buses Are Cheaper Than Trains
While buses might be slower, you can save a huge chunk of money than flying or taking a plane.
Be sure to do your research to find out how reliable the bus system is. Many cities have awesome public transit that will zip you all over the city faster than you could navigate it yourself!
10. Walk The City
If you’re visiting a city and it’s reasonable walking distance, plan on traveling on foot to take in the whole experience. This will take out parking fees and long waits in traffic.
It’s actually quicker on foot at times in the city.
My husband and I use GPS on our phones when we walk around cities to make sure we’re going the right way.
And we like to take free walking tours to get local tips about where to eat and places to go.
Find out how to get a free walking tour in NYC!
11. Avoid Restaurants
Eating at restaurants every meal will prove costly.
If your hotel or lodging provides a small kitchen area, put it to good use for several meals during your stay.
We also save money by exploring grocery stores when we travel (it’s much more exciting than it sounds!)
We’re able to stock up on grab and go breakfast and lunch items. And we can try out local brands!
Find out how to save money on food in Hawaii.
12. Travel Light
While traveling on a plane, try and pack only the essentials that don’t take up as much space. If you’re staying at a destination where there’s a washing machine, pack less clothing.
I’m also a fan of sticking with the same color palette for clothing so you can mix and match (and therefore reuse) pieces of clothing and you won’t look the same in every photo.
13. Avoid Checked Baggage
Traveling light will help you to avoid checking baggage that costs you more money. It’s shocking how expensive it can get!
If you pack light enough, you can squeeze everything into your carry-on to make this happen.
Investing in packing cubes is a great way to maximize the amount you can fit in a convenient carry on suitcase.
Find out about my favorite carry on bag!
14. Don’t Eat 3 Meals
Maybe it’s just me, but traveling decreases my appetite.
If you eat a good hearty breakfast, it can usually hold you over until dinner time.
I like to grab coffee in the morning and then do a super late brunch. Then, I’m not hungry for hours and hours.
15. Bring Your Own Snacks
Snacks can also help hold you over. You are allowed to bring snacks through airport security as long as their not liquid or gels.
Although I’ve never had a problem bringing applesauce pouches.
I usually buy food in bulk (like at Costco) and then portion out some for the plane rides and hotel room. This saves me a lot of money (and temptation) at the airport!
So, bringing your own snacks is a cheap travel tip that everyone should know about.
16. Complementary Breakfast
Staying at a hotel with a complimentary breakfast is a great way to take advantage of savings on breakfast.
Be sure to do your research to find out if you should expect cold cereal or a hot breakfast bar. And some offer free snacks/drinks throughout the day!
17. Hit the Free Attractions
Before you visit your destination, look up all the great things you can do for free to help fill in your trip.
You’ll be surprised how many times you can find a free version of an activity that normally costs a lot.
If you’re traveling with kids, be sure to find out where the coolest or most unique playgrounds are. Kids LOVE playing at new parks. And (bonus) parks don’t have gift shops!
18. Consider Camping
Camping is one of the cheapest ways to lodge for the night under the stars and around the campfire.
Do your research and be sure to book in advance to make sure to grab a camping site. Reservations can go quickly for popular camping spots, especially during summer.
19. Consider Vrbo
Vrbo and other house rental agencies are a great way to feel more at home and cut the costs of hotel nightly stays.
20. Stay With Friends to Travel on a Budget
If your destination is close to a friend or relative, ask if you can crash at their place for a couple nights to save you money.
But, please remember to be a good guest and clean up after yourself and offer to cook!
21. Staying Long-term? Get an Apartment
If you’re staying somewhere for around 3-4 weeks, a short-term apartment option for a month will be cheaper than staying at a hotel for just 2 weeks.
Check to see if the apartment is furnished, for your comfort.
22. Share the Cost when Traveling on a Budget
Plan on traveling with friends or family to help with fuel, lodging and other traveling expenses. The more people travel with you, the cheaper the trip becomes. Bring along some toddler travel beds and you’ll be able to squeeze more kids in the room.
It also means you can get a bigger place (with cool amenities like pools and large kitchens) so you’ll save money by hanging out at the house rather than spending money on things to do.
23. Steer Clear of Gift Shops
My husband has a saying that he “hasn’t met a gift shop he didn’t like.”
But, we all know merchandise and souvenirs from gift shops are extremely overpriced.
To avoid any disappointment with children, try to avoid them altogether. Instead, I like to grab items from Target’s Dollar Spot and pack them with me.
Find out how I save money at Disneyland by thinking ahead!
24. Put Your Place Up For Airbnb
Not only should you get an Airbnb, but if your home is vacant in the meantime, why not put your home up for Airbnb to help finance your trip?
While this isn’t a good option for all families, it can be a great way to cut costs if you are traveling for long periods of time.
25. Get a National Park Pass
I highly recommend getting a National Park Pass. They cost $80 and are good for one year.
If you visit the National Parks a few times a year, the pass will pay for itself rather quickly.
And there are so many cool National Parks! Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, and Glacier National Park are just a few that are popular with families.
There’s also a cool program where 4th graders get in FREE to all National Parks. What a great excuse for a summer road trip!
These are my top 25 cheap traveling tips that you should know about.